For what felt like aeons, food on Venice Beach's boardwalk have consisted almost entirely of greasy fish and chips, sidewalk corn dogs and slices of dollar pizza with fake cheese. If you wanted a decent meal, well, Santa Monica is just a few miles up.
Finally, the Venice Ale House is changing the game. This new restaurant offers high-quality organic and locally sourced ingredients to those whose first food concern isn't how cheap and fast the meal is – and does so smack in the middle of one of the most interesting beach boardwalks in the world.
Roommates Thomas Elliott and Spoon Singh opened this oceanside breath of fresh air in August, and so far the response has been as warm as a Venice afternoon. Occupying a piece of prime real estate where Rose Avenue meets the Venice Boardwalk, this streamlined restaurant employs the clean colors of metal and pale wood, which some have called "minimalist skateboard décor," whatever that means. Those wanting a cozy bar experience can pull up stools inside, and those who dine outside on the sidewalk get eyefuls of some of the most prime people-watching... ever.
My conversation with co-owner Elliott as he serves pulls of draught beer at the bar is enjoyable and informative, like an old friend is giving me the ins on the best food and wine pairings in California. This skateboarder, sailor and entrepreneur has a passion for sustainable food that is as obvious as his plates of organic wild green salads are fresh. Elliott's spot-on descriptions of the different West Coast microbrews on the menu like Lost Coast's Tangerine Wheat and Stone Brewing's Ruination IPA make it almost too hard to decide – until we notice his tee shirt, advertising MateVeza Yerba Mate Ale, which is a naturally caffeinated beer. This Seattle girl is sold. It makes perfect sense that the Venice Ale House knows its brews, as the other co-owner Singh founded Kona Brewing Company.
Wine offerings go hand-in-hand with quality and consciousness alongside the beers: California-focused and West Coast proud. There is something special about al fresco dining and glasses of wine, and the sidewalk diners are enjoying a selection of Au Bon Climat Chardonnay, Snap Dragon Riesling and Farmer's Table Big Red.
Venice Ale House's menu is California-American: heavy on burgers, sandwiches, salads, seafood and spicy Mexican influences, brunch served on weekends with farm-fresh, free range eggs. My vegan dining partner and I have difficulty deciding what to order off the bar's blackboard, as it is stuffed with several exciting options. We both ultimately go with tacos; his are made with roasted vegetables that match his side of sweet potato un-fries, and I choose the wild Alaskan salmon tacos to complement my beer. Delicious, and gone very quickly.
Elliott and Singh don't just talk the talk about sustainable living and local sourcing – they also walk the walk, or ride the ride as it were. All of Venice Beach's employees live within walking distance to the beach, and the two owners ride bikes and skateboards to work, making use of the racks out front.
One of the best drawing points of any restaurant on Venice Beach is of course, the beach; not only the perfect strip of turquoise and sandy beige but also the continuous stream of random and eccentric boardwalkers that give the funky area so much personality and verve. We are loath to leave our comfortable seats, but figure that a stroll down the beach post-meal sounds divine.
Venice Ale House is a refreshing option for those who love the carnival of characters and salty breezes of Venice Beach and who also appreciate high-quality, locally sourced organic food. Finally the beach has gone beyond boardwalk food and a healthier, more conscious option is available. And besides – you can always grab some cotton candy for dessert.